In terms of relationships, the holiday season is full of pitfalls that can create real anxiety. Avoidance is often impossible or ill-advised. If you have to spend time with family members, co-workers, or friends you dislike – who drive you crazy – it can make holiday gatherings literally dreadful. Set yourself up for success. No matter how much you don’t want to spend time with someone, it is possible to have an afternoon or evening pass without drama or bad feelings. It costs nothing to be polite, so make a mental plan to be pleasantly polite but disinterested with those who tend to push your buttons. Often you can just greet the person politely, smile, walk away, and engage with someone you would like to talk to.
If that someone tends to say hurtful things, a) try not to give them opportunity. b) If it’s unavoidable, visualize the hurtful comments as an arrow shot at you – and don’t let it strike you; step aside and watch the “arrow” fall harmlessly to the side. In other words, just because someone is throwing hurtful comments your way, doesn’t mean you have to let them hit your heart. You cannot control what others do, but you can absolutely control your reactions – simply by noticing what they are doing. Having this mental conversation with yourself can often be effective: “Oh! I see that So-and-So just hurled an insult my way. How inappropriate. Think I’ll step aside and watch the insult land in the dirt where it belongs.” Then, make certain you calmly turn around and walk away. You need not respond in any way. Then – as always – notice the self-control you’ve just exhibited, acknowledge what you’ve done, and celebrate by talking with someone more enjoyable. You’ll feel better about yourself, and by taking the “high road”, you will also draw attention to the inappropriateness of the other person’s behavior. The next time you’re at a holiday party with someone who pushes your buttons, try this once as an experiment, and see how it feels!